Throughout the Old Testament, xenophobic prophets of Yahweh took up as their life mission the stamping out Paganism from the Hebrew mindset. Yahweh’s prophets urged Israel to remain cloistered amongst themselves, to not intermarry or associate with the “barbaric” foreigners and their practices. Much to their remorse, Israel was drawn back again and again to polytheistic worship.
We will certainly do everything we said we would: We will burn incense to the Queen of Heaven and will pour out drink offerings to her just as we and our ancestors, our kings and our officials did in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. At that time we had plenty of food and were well off and suffered no harm. (Jeremiah 44.17)
But we all know that Yahweh ultimately prevailed, founding three major world religions and stamping out Paganism forever in Israel and much of the rest of the world. Or did he? Modern day Israeli Pagans say otherwise.
“In a country like ours, which naturally has inter religious tension, being a pagan is not easy. Worshiping other gods is something very sensitive in Judaism,” says Rinet Korbet, an Israeli researcher. Quite understandable, considering even when everyone (Jews, Muslims, Christians) are on the same page that Yahweh is king, they constantly bicker with each other over who has rights to the holy land. Being completely divorced from the Judeo-Christo-Islamic belief in Yahweh sets Pagans up for being attacked by all three groups.
Yet that doesn’t stop some Israeli Pagans like Alon Kobets from saying, “Some people live in fear, but I’m past hiding my faith.” And the fall equinox of 2011 marked the first modern Israeli Pagan festival, as publicized in the poster below saying, “The first Israeli Pagan Festival that we shall celebrate together, on September the 22-24th, 2011…Pagans from all over the country are invited to celebrate together the spirit of kinship and community that Mabon invokes.”
But Kobets also notes “Some guys live with religious families. They can’t tell their parents, ‘I don’t believe in Judaism, I’m a pagan.’ They’d chop off their heads.” Only a few brave Israeli Pagans are finally coming out of the broom closet. Living Pagan in the southern, Bible Belt half of the United States seems bad enough, but my heart truly goes out to Israeli Pagans who face many more obstacles toward achieving religious freedoms than I.